Prop 1 Partying
Council members toast passage of transpo prop, look to future
By Wells Dunbar, 10:38PM, Tue. Nov. 2, 2010
The scene at Shoal Creek Saloon was victory in the midst of defeat as City Council members gathered to celebrate passage of Proposition 1 while several of their colleagues in the Travis County legislative delegation faced a less than assured future.
Still, with early voting tallies putting Prop 1 support solidly ahead, there was some celebrating to do – and talk that the $90 million transportation bond is just the beginning.
“Austinites have clearly spoken that they support multi-modal transportation which includes funding for roads, trails and bicycle lanes,” said Sheryl Cole, a supporter of the prop, but one who had been vocal in questioning its impact on the city's overall bonding capacity. “I was concerned about the process, and you can never have enough transparency in the process, but once we passed those hurdles and we voted it out, it was time to take it to the voters and we took it to them strong.”
Reached immediately following the release of early voting results, Lee Leffingwell said “I think most of the political pros say that they anticipate it will get a little bit better as the night goes on,” a prediction borne out by the latest results indicating a widening margin of votes for Prop 1 (77,795/59,657, with nearly 68% reporting). ”It's not going to be a blowout by any means,” Leffingwell said. “I make no bones about it, I'm very happy. I was worried about this election. I don't remember … a mobility bond package that actually had organized opposition.” About that opposition: Leffingwell said “There weren't many of them, just a few folks really involved, [that were] sort of on the fringe of Austin politics, but they were well organized and well funded and put up a good fight.”
Asked whether any of their complaints – that it was wrong to “bundle” the propositions, or that it didn't sufficiently fund roads, Leffingwell said he was “100% that this was the way to go. I absolutely believe we have to start thinking about transportation as a system, with lots of different parts that connect to each other and complement each other, more than just a single thing. Yes, absolutely we need more roads and better roads. And we're doing that. 57% of the package is new roads or road improvements. But for the first time we get to catch up on our other modes of transportation. … I think the average of all the three previous transportation elections was about 90% roads.”
“Every one of the projects in this proposal were selected so they could be underway within 24 months,” Leffingwell continued. “Normally, transportation projects in a bond are strung out over six or seven or more years. We're still spending the money from '98, 2000, and 2006. This is gonna be a quick stimulus, so it has a lot of added benefits, one actually being a job creator, a stimulus to our economy. We're getting this work done a lot cheaper than we will be able to in a few years from now.”
Bond elections past and present were on Randi Shade's mind. “If you see all the roads signs out right now [announcing current projects funded] from the bond election in 2006, you get a sense for how you have to keep things in the pipeline. I'm certainly aware that these are tough economic times,” she continued, lauding the projects in the package as way to keep moving “until something more comprehensive can be contemplated.”
Leffingwell addressed the crowd before heading to the Travis County Dems watch party, beginning by thanking several prop proponents, notably Get Austin Moving PAC principal Ted Siff, who, in the mayor's words, “almost single-handedly raised over $100,000. And let me add we needed every penny of that.”
His remarks hewed closely to what he told yours truly earlier: Prop 1 “is the first step in a very long journey. It's going to take a generation to successfully address the traffic problems that Austin has. We got in this position because we failed to take action at critical times. When I ran for mayor, I said that I was gonna put a transportation bond on the ballot in November 2010. It wasn't everything we wanted it to be this November, but we're already working on a companion mobility package that we hope to put on the ballot in November 2012, put it back before the voters, with the same guiding principles – that we have to start thinking of transportation solutions in a systematic way. We have to consider all the different modes of transportation and how they connect to each other and how they complement each other, instead of just saying, 'We need more roads.' Absolutely we need more roads. There's a big chunk of money, about $10 million, for ADA compliant sidewalks in this bond proposal. A lot of folks have said that's not really transportation infrastructure. I would suggest, for those of you who believe that, ask somebody in a wheelchair if they think a sidewalk is essential part of our transportation infrastructure. So we hope to go forward in November 2012, for the next stage.”